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Indy will have a full field

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway released the list of official entries for the 90th running of the Memorial Day classic Indy 500 last week.

Despite fears of a short field for this year’s race, 38 entries will fight for the 33 starting spots on May 28. In all, 66 cars (including backups) could conceivably take to the track at Indy during the month of May. The 20 or so Indy Racing League regular drivers are included on the entry list, with a few “retreads” – drivers who are coming out of retirement for this year’s event.

Six former winners are entered: Dan Wheldon, Buddy Rice, Helio Castroneves, Eddie Cheever Jr., Al Unser Jr., and Buddy Lazier. The 38 entries do, it must be said, include some unlikely entries, such as a third Penske car and a fourth Vision Racing entry, and in all 12 entries do not have a named driver. So if you have a helmet, some racing experience, and a bucketful of sponsor money, it might behoove you to buy a ticket to Indianapolis and hang out at the track looking firm, resolute, and fast.

Late breaking news has that number of open seats reduced by one, as Cheever Racing’s second car will be driven by Tomas Enge. As reported earlier, Michael Andretti is coming out of retirement to attempt victory at the race that has eluded him for so many years. I’ve never been a big Michael fan, but I’ve liked him a lot better since he’s been out of the car and acting as a team owner. So just for the sake of sentiment, I’ll wish him luck.

I don’t know if you watched the races from Long Beach last weekend, but one driver who didn’t start the race was former open-wheel ace Memo Gidley, who crashed in practice due to a mechanical failure and sustained a back injury. Memo has always been one of my favorite drivers, ever since I saw him slicing up fellow go-kart competitors as a teen. I’ve followed his career through the ranks and even raced against him, placing two spots behind him in an endurance race at Sears Point 10 years ago.

Memo is the antithesis of the syndrome I wrote about after the death of Paul Dana, in that he is a driver of incredible skill and experience who unfortunately hasn’t hooked up with a sponsor who can pay his way into the big leagues. He also has one of the most positive attitudes I’ve ever encountered, in or out of racing. After learning that the back injury from last weekend would have an effect on his height, Memo found the silver lining in the cloud.

Said Memo, “I guess the other benefit is that I’ve been told because of the impact I will be 1Ú4 inch shorter…not a bad thing for a race car driver because it will lower my center of gravity!”

Another Busch brother is in trouble with the law. After Kurt’s celebrated run-in with Maricopa County deputies at last fall’s Phoenix race, younger brother Kyle fell afoul of the authorities in Richmond, Va., last week during testing at the track there. The younger Busch was apprehended for “driving behavior consistent with reckless driving,” according to Sgt. Don Lambert of Henrico police. Lambert said neither speed nor alcohol was a factor but would not give details.

Next Saturday night is opening night at Reno-Fernley Raceway, and it’s Flag Night. The first 300 fans through the gate will receive a free checkered flag. On tap are IMCA Modifieds, Pro Stock, Pro 4s, Hobby Stocks, and Pure Stock Minis.

If the test and tune sessions of the past three weeks are any indication, there should be some pretty big fields of cars. Spectator gates open at 3 p.m., and racing begins at 6 p.m. General admission is $8, $5 for seniors, $3 for kids 6-12, and kids 5 and under free.

The Nextel Cup has a bye this weekend, so we can all spend the time with our families. I’m at that age where I can hide my own Easter eggs, so the holiday is especially fun for me.